Collecting fossils in New South Wales
In New South Wales there is no legislation specifically dealing with the collection of fossils. Fossils may be collected by fossicking (manual digging only and no major excavation as defined in the New South Wales Mining Act. Where you collect is restricted by who controls or owns the land on which the fossils are found.
- Fossil collecting is prohibited in national parks or other areas that have been declared as reserves for the preservation of fossils.
- Fossils cannot be collected from private land unless permission has been granted by the owner of the land.
- Fossils can be collected on crown land by means of fossicking and the finder is entitled to keep the specimens collected. On crown land leases, permission of the lessee needs to be obtained.
- On other public land such as road reserves and council owned land, permission of the relevant authority should be obtained before removal of any fossil material.
- Collection on mining leases, including surface collecting on opal mining claims can only be carried out with the permission of the owner of the lease or claim.
Over-collection on popular sites can be a problem so be aware that irresponsible collecting can lead to the destruction of a site or denial of access to amateur collectors. Make sure there are fossils left for collectors who come after you.
Who owns the fossils
Fossils are a part of our natural heritage. They can be extremely important scientifically but fossils collected legally are the property of the collector. In New South Wales fossils cannot be confiscated by authorities such as the Australian Museum. Museum palaeontologists are interested in seeing fossils that you may think are important and are interested in hearing of what may be new sites. The Australian Museum gratefully accepts donations of fossils that are scientifically significant.
Value of fossils
The vast majority of fossils found by amateur collectors are worth very little in monetary terms but they may be important scientifically. This does not necessarily translate into being worth money. The scientific value can only be determined by palaeontologists at museums or universities.
Sale of fossils
You are entitled to sell or trade in fossils you find without attracting GST if it is done as a part of a hobby and not as an enterprise, or for profit.
Export of fossils
Fossils that are Australian protected objects under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 cannot be legally exported without a permit. Further information is available from the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at www.deh.gov.au/heritage/movable. Persons wishing to export fossils can obtain a preliminary assessment from an expert examiner to establish if they need to apply for an export permit.